Bored of the flat stuff? Don’t care about Green? I know you’re out there; you like the Tour, but what you really adore are the mountain stages. Tortured faces, real pain, lung-bursting gradients and crazy crowds invading the road, the Tour de France takes on a whole new character in the hills and the drama is addictive.
So here is where and when it goes down, or rather up.
Stage 10, Monday July 10th
Dax – Lourdes-Hautacam
13.5 km at a fearsome average gradient of 7.9%, Hautacam is a real brute, and this of a climb and comes only AFTER you’ve made it up the reknowned Col d’Aubisque. Gascony is bull-fighting country, and the matadors will be out in strength to try and administer the coup de grace to the presumptious sprinters who have been dominating the Tour up till now; somehow I don’t think Wust will be back in Polka dots again after this day’s action.
Stage 12, Tuesday July 12th
Carpentras – Le Mont Ventoux
Not been climbed by the Tour since 1994, this is literally a killer climb, as witnessed by the death of Tommy Simpson in 1967. 21km at 7.6% creates carnage by the time the riders reach 1,909 metres altitude, so expect only the Virenques of this world to be there or thereabouts. Not a place for the faint-hearted.
Stage 14, Saturday July 15th
Draguignan – Briancon
Three 2,000m plus climbs in one day, including the classic Col d’Izoard which only comes 200k into the stage, 14.1 km climb at 7.2% (so that’s alright then). We are in “Hautes-Alpes” for what is a tough stage, especially considering what will come the following day, so if you manage to watch one mountain stage then make it this one, it will not disappoint.
Stage 15, Sunday July 16th
Briancon – Courcheval
The stage before the second rest day that will come too late for many after two really hard-core days. Those who don’t survive can take a dip in the nearby huge reservoir at Serre-Poncon, but for those with the stomach for it it will be an arduous day which should have a big bearing on who is in yellow in Paris. Courcheval is a typical alpine climb (22km at 6.2%), but coming at the end of a dream sequence of Aubisque, Ventoux and Izouard, everyone will be glad to see the back of this popular ski resort.
Stage 16, Tuesday July 18th
Courcheval – Morzine
Probably everyone is hoping that a clear leader will have appeared by this stage, to save the legs on this final day in the mountains. If not then expect an early break, but they could really get punished by a final climb that goes off the scale: Col de Joux-Plane, 11.8k at 8.5%! A steep and narrow descent follows this peak, so expect some fun and games on the way down into Morzine.
So those are the stages to put in your diary if you really want to see the blood, sweat and tears. It’s a great tour for hills this year, so make the most of it and get going uphill.